In the wealthy Gulf emirate of Qatar, citizens elected the Shura Council for the first time on Saturday, which advises Saudi King Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on his policy.
The basics in brief
- No women were elected to the council to advise the king.
More than 30 members of the body voted, and the emir is still appointing the other 15 members of the Shura Council. As announced by the Election Commission, no women were elected to the council, although 28 candidates ran.
The vote was not expected to result in a significant change in the power structure of the absolute monarchy. However, about a year before the World Cup, Qatar is trying to maintain a good image – abroad, too.
Political parties are banned in Qatar and there is no parliament. 284 candidates applied for membership in the Shura Council. However, by early afternoon, over a hundred applicants had already withdrawn from the race to let the others go first.
The Shura Council approves the budget, controls the ministers, and proposes new laws. The prince always has the last word. The commission should actually be elected in 2007, but it has been repeatedly postponed. So far, only local elections and constitutional referendums have been held in the Gulf emirate. It remains unclear when the newly elected Shura Council will meet.
Only Qatari nationals whose ancestors had been citizens since 1930 were allowed to stand for elections and vote. However, only about 330,000 of the country’s population of 2.5 million ever hold Qatari citizenship. Of these, in turn, not all are descendants of citizens who lived in what was then the United Kingdom nearly a hundred years ago.
According to official figures, the final turnout was 63.5 percent, much higher than in the 2019 local elections. At that time, less than ten percent of voters cast their ballots.
And queues of Qataris in traditional clothes spread in front of polling stations in schools and gyms scattered across the Gulf emirate. In the 17th District, a Mercedes-Benz with chauffeur and a pearly white Rolls-Royce SUV drop voters in front of an elementary school.
Luciano Zaccara, an expert from Qatar University who specializes in the Gulf region, said the Qatari leadership is very keen that the elections before the World Cup attract “positive attention” to the country.
Foreign policy was excluded from the election events, as was the form of Qatari government. Candidates were more likely to talk about societal issues such as health, education, and civil rights. Candidates had to announce in advance what events they were planning regarding the elections and who would speak there.
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